Meet Dominic Chekovsky From Debra Kayn’s Seductively

Please welcome special guest Dominic Chekovsky to the virtual offices this morning.  Dominic took some time away from his busy practice schedule to introduce himself, so give him a big hello!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Dominic Chekovsky] Dedicated, competitive, sincere, misunderstood, and sensitive. What? I am.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in the life of Dominic Chekovsky?

[Dominic Chekovsky] It’s all about hockey and Diana. I get up and plug in the coffee maker for Diana while I make a protein shake for myself. Usually this takes about an hour, because Diana strolls into the kitchen looking adorable with her curls going in every direction and distracts me. Then I head to the arena for hockey practice. I play hard. It’s going to be a banner season. By the evening, I’m ready to reconnect with Diana again and relax. We’re homebodies lately, preferring to entertain ourselves at home. She’s still trying to beat me in sock hockey. Once in awhile I let her win, because it benefits me. In two weeks, we’re taking a few days to travel to Cottage Grove and meet up with our friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to choose one moment that made you the person you are today, which would it be?

[Dominic Chekovsky] *grows serious* My parents. Their unending support and dedication in my career have made me the man I am today. My father gave me the advice as a young boy, "Whatever you do, throw your heart into it and you’ll always be happy." I think that’s true, don’t you?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Diana?

[Dominic Chekovsky] Hot, Mouthy, Adorable. *sighs on a smile* She’s perfect for me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you find most exasperating about her?

[Dominic Chekovsky] *scoots to the edge of his chair and lowers his voice* She argues a lot. Don’t tell her I said this, but her attitude drives me crazy. Sometimes I’ll argue with her just to set her off, so I can see the passion in her. She’s beautiful but when she fights, she steals my breath away.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Dominic Chekovsky] Ugh. I approached Diana all wrong back when I first met her. I’ve learned a lot about women since we got together, thanks to her. It all worked out for the best but if I would’ve known the secret to handling women, I would’ve stayed out of trouble early on in my career. I would’ve learned to say no to them sooner, before my life derailed.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Dominic Chekovsky] My car keys. Only because if I don’t take them with me, Diana steals my Porsche out of the garage. I’ve never seen a woman so attached to a car before. She drives way too fast.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Dominic Chekovsky] Babies. *grins and looks away* Yeah, babies with Diana.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Dominic Chekovsky] Thanks! It’s been fun. Don’t forget to watch the San Jose Sharks. We’re gonna kick ass this season.

To learn more about Dominic and Diana, be sure to read Debra Kayn’s Seductively.

Purchase link

Check out Wildly Book One in Debra’s Playing for Hearts series, too

About the book:

Independent and goal orientated, Diana Spenner has set her sights on buying the old Ferriday House and running her own Bed and Breakfast by the end of the year. Nothing will sway her from her plans, especially the famous hockey player Dominic Chekovsky, who can’t take no for an answer. But, when Dominic strolls into Cottage Grove and begs her in his thick Russian accent to keep his adoring female fans away from him, she’s not going to turn him down—because the job pays half a million dollars.

Dominic Chekovsky life is out of control. American women go crazy around him. They invade his personal space, leave their husbands for him, and make his life hell. Except, Diana. She’s the one woman who always turns him down, no matter how many times he asks her out on a date. Now he’s desperate. He needs Diana’s help to figure out why she’s the only female immune to his charm, so he can continue to play hockey in the United States. Maybe when Diana finally allows herself to say yes to having sex with him, he’ll be over his wild fascination with the one woman who always tells him no.
Warning: Sexy Russian accent, big ego, and thick, hard thighs on ice. Go Sharks!

Cover Shot! Melting the Ice by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Wow! This is the seventh Play by Play novel, and I still haven’t read The Perfect Play (which I purchased at Borders during their fire sale).  I like that the background looks like ice. Even though everything about this cover makes me think of winter, which I hate, I still think it’s fun to look at.

In stores February 2014

 

Carolina Preston has only one goal in mind—launching her new fashion line. She needs only one last thing to make it perfect—hockey phenom Drew Hogan. But Carolina and Drew have a history that goes back to their college days, and Carolina doesn’t want the embarrassment of her past to cloud the brightness of her future.

Drew is eager for the chance to show Carolina he isn’t the boy who hurt her back then, but a man now, with the skills necessary to melt the icy exterior of her cold heart.

Review: Falling for the Backup by Toni Aleo

 

Title: Falling for the Backup

Author: Toni Aleo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is, until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and dazzles her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from the Loveswept title Empty Net.


Review:

This novella did not work for me, and judging from the ratings on GoodReads, I am definitely in the minority in regards to this title.  I wanted to read Falling for the Backup because it’s a sport romance with hockey, and I love hockey.  How can I not? I’m from Detroit, and hockey is in our blood.  What else is there to look forward to in the middle of the long, dreary winters?  Why, the battle for the Stanley Cup is about all that keeps us from falling into a bleak, seasonal depression.

Jordan Ryan is a goalie for the Assassins, but after an injury that almost ended his career, he’s gone from superstar to backup.  Frustrated with his life, he’s watched his career go down the toilet, his fiancée left him when he was at his most vulnerable, and now he’s warming the bench for a hotshot youngster who’s taken his position, as well as the all of the glory that goes with it.  Desperate to play again, he’s shopping himself around the league with his father’s help.  His father is his agent, and he’s adamant that Jordan stay on the straight and narrow and that he doesn’t do anything to jeopardize a contract offer from another team.  Easy enough.  Jordan’s only interest in life is getting back on the ice full-time.

Until he meets Aynslee on a flight home to Nashville.  After he accidentally dumps a cup of coffee on her dress, Aynslee can’t keep her eyes, or her mind, off of Jordan.  She thinks they have a connection, but after disembarking, he takes off with a curt good-bye.  No phone numbers are exchanged, and Aynslee is confused.  And disappointed.  How could the most breathtaking guy she’d ever seen take off without even getting her number.  Ugh!

When they continue to bump into each other, Jordan finally gives in and allows Aynslee to sweep him off his feet.  The timing stinks because he’ll be leaving town once he signs with a new team, but he lets her know up front that they aren’t, and can’t be, a long term thing.  Aynslee goes along, willing to put her worries about their breakup in the back of her mind.  She’s sure that Jordan will change his mind and that they will figure out a way to stay together.

Why didn’t this work for me?  Because Jordan and Aynslee are obviously meant to be together, but Jordan is too caught up in himself to even think of asking Aynslee to go with him to his new team.  He’s convinced himself, without asking her, that she’s got a perfect life, with perfect friends, in Nashville, and that she would never consider moving.  This just frustrated me, because after dismissing a long distance relationship because they never work out, he is resigned instead to breaking up with the love of his life and moving off to reestablish his glory on the ice.  Aynslee isn’t much better, because she can’t seem to discuss their impending breakup, either.  She’s just content with the way things are, and she has faith that things will work out, without any effort on her part.

The other aspect of the novella that bothered me was that both characters acted too young for their ages.  Jordan is in his early thirties, but his behavior was closer to a guy in his early twenties.  Sure, his confidence has taken a few knocks after losing his starting position and after getting dumped by his girlfriend, but it was like he reverted to a much younger version of himself, and I just couldn’t buy into that. 

This is a quick, steamy read, and you can get beyond the contrived conflict, it will make a great beach read.

Grade:  C-

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Reveal: Falling for the Backup by Toni Aleo

Oh-lala!  I have a cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Falling for the Backup!  This is an Assassins series novella, and it will be available June 24.  What do you think of it?

Falling for the Backup: An Assassins Series Novella by Toni Aleo

Loveswept – Random House |  June 24, 2013  |  $0.99

Toni Aleo’s sexy new eBook original novella featuring the Nashville Assassins will have you believing in the power of love at first sight . . . and second sight . . . and third.

After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and charms her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.

Pre-order Falling for the Backup

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iBookstore  |  Random House and Other Retailers


Connect with Toni

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Review: Game. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli

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Title:  Game. Set. Match.

Author:  Jennifer Iacopelli

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.


Review:

Wow! Coliloquy does it again!  Here’s another book with lots of angst, set amid the ultra competitive world of tennis.  Here’s a secret; I can’t stand tennis, and yet I couldn’t put this book down!  The interpersonal relationships had me hooked.  Would Penny get over her fling with tennis bad boy Alex?  Would Jasmine live up to her parents’ legacy?  Would Indy ever fit in at OBX and make her dreams of being a top tennis player come true?  Will I get over the cruelty of those painful little words – THE END??

While I don’t enjoy tennis, I was drawn to this book because I love sports stories.  It doesn’t matter what the sport is, either.  As long as the protagonists are committed to training hard and being the best they can be, I’m onboard.  There is just something about a competitor refusing to be second best that keeps me engaged in their struggles.  I want to see them persevere, to overcome all obstacles in their path, and become the best they can be.  Throw in rivals, disinterested parents, interfering parents – in short, any emotionally distracting relationship, and I am that much more invested in the story.

Game. Set. Match. has three central characters, and the book is told in alternating POVs.  Penny has just won her first major tournament, defeating the world’s number one player.  She’s determined to win the French Open next, but she’s still having flashbacks to a disastrous competition where Alex Russell messed with her mind, her heart, and destroyed her game.  To her utter dismay, her coach has brought Alex to OBX to help her train.  Can she keep herself together and ignore the attraction raging between them? Can she ever trust him again?  I loved this story line, because Alex is such a player, yet he’s ready to make a commitment to Penny, if only she’ll give him the time of day.  There was a lot of great tension between Alex and Penny, as they both strove to train for their matches at the French Open.   Penny has so many pressures now that she’s finding success, from potential sponsors to rivals waiting in the wings to take her down a notch.  Great stuff here!

Jasmine is probably my least favorite character, because she came across as a spoiled princess.  Her parents were both tennis superstars, and since she was seven, all she’s wanted was to follow in their footsteps.  When Indy shows up at OBX and promptly derails her dreams and hopes for the future, she lashes out at her new tennis opponent.  Jasmine lost the mental game long before she even stepped out on the court.  She expected that success would just fall into her lap, without her truly working for it.  While I did like her better by the end of the book, it took a lot for her to win me over.

Indy gave up on tennis after her mother’s death.  After Penny wins the Madrid Open, her fire to play tennis is re-ignited.  She is surprised that her offer to attend OBX is still open, and jumps at the chance to train at the best tennis academy in the country.  I really liked Indy and found her story arc highly engrossing.  Still reeling from her mother’s death, she and her father have a distant relationship at best.  She’s never been as interesting to him as his work, and Indy has resented his indifference for years.  Now she’s facing the toughest competition of her life, and she’s learning the hard way that tennis is more about the mental game than she realized.  Her early success at OBX hasn’t earned her any friends among her classmates.  She’s surprised to discover how down to earth Penny is, and the two girls soon become close, which leads to more rivalries with the other girls at the academy.  Indy’s story was my favorite, and I thought that her romantic pursuit of Jack, Penny’s older brother, was very sweet.

Game. Set. Match is a great read with lots of emotion.  Even if you don’t usually enjoy sports stories, give this a try.  It’s more about relationships and chasing your dreams than tennis.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Reveal! Blue Lines by Toni Aleo!

I’m excited to help with the cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Blue Lines.  This is book 4 in Toni’s Assassins series.   What do you think?  While I love the guy’s back, I don’t think I’m over the moon about his jeans.  Would I like it better without them? Ummmm…yeah.  What do you think?

 

About the book:

Opposites do more than just attract in Toni Aleo’s latest Nashville Assassins novel about a very bad boy and the good girl he can’t resist.

The instant Piper Allen sees Erik Titov, she wants him—wants his rock-hard body, sure, but the strength and mystery that lie behind that superstar hockey jock demeanor, too. So when he sidles up to her at a bar and slinks his arm around her waist, she’s lost. What follows is the wildest night of her life . . . followed by inevitable heartbreak the next morning. And then, a few weeks later, a very big surprise: two blue lines on a pregnancy test.
Only a check to the head could make Erik fall for a nice girl like Piper. But since their crazy-sexy night together, he’s been trying to forget about her alluring body by falling into bed with every woman in Nashville, and it’s not working. So when Piper shows up at his house with a baby-bomb to drop, it doesn’t take much for Erik to suggest the nuclear option: marriage. While it’s supposed to be all for show, the second they say “I do,” the ice between them starts to melt into sizzling steam.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, and Empty Net.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lines-Assassins-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BH0VTUW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366653309&sr=1-1&keywords=Blue+Lines%3A+The+Assassins+Series+Toni+Aleo

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

iBookstore: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

Random House and other retailers: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/227840/blue-lines-the-assassins-series-by-toni-aleo

Review: Riding on Air by Maggie Gilbert

 

Title:  Riding on Air

Author: Maggie Gilbert

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

For readers of Jenny Downham, John Greene and Maureen McCarthy, a poignant young adult romance about following your dreams and realising what really matters.

What can you do when your own hands are the enemy? Hold on tight, for as long as it takes.

Melissa has secrets. Sure it’s pretty obvious she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but no one knows how bad it is or how many pills she takes for the pain. She’s determined to make her horse Jinx into a champion and she dreams that her childhood friend William will one day see her, rather than her condition.

So when William asks her out and Jinx is shortlisted for selection in an elite training program, it seems Melissa’s dreams have come true. But when her secrets are exposed, all those dreams come crashing down around her. Can William ever forgive her? And can she learn about letting go in time to truly ride on air when it matters most?


Review:

One guess why I wanted to read Riding on Air.  Yup, it’s got a horse on the cover.  Riding plays a big, big part of the story, so if you find horses boring, you might have a problem feeling engaged in the plot.  That wasn’t a problem for me!  I immediately felt comfortable with Melissa, and I agonized with her as she stubbornly refuses to give up her one, true love – horseback riding.  Sounds kind of melodramatic, but Melissa’s fears and hopes rang so true for me.  I would be devastated if I had to give up my horses, so I could sympathize with her right away.

As I’m getting ready for the first horse show of the season (which starts on Wednesday), Melissa’s efforts to prepare her horse Jinx for an important dressage show were instantly relatable.  Melissa has one added challenge; she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which makes her joints ache and her fingers burn with pain. I personally can’t imagine riding if my hands were that painful, because contrary to popular belief, you don’t just get on a horse and sit there.  You have to ride every stride.  You have to keep the horse between your hands and your seat, and your hands need to be light and responsive, ready to check the horse back with both your hands and your seat.  If your hands aren’t there for you, you won’t be there for your horse.  Melissa stubbornly refuses to ask for help with Jinx, because she wants to prove that she’s just as normal as anyone else, and because she’s fearful that her parents will forbid her from riding. 

As Melissa’s condition worsens, a bright spot does enter her life.  She’s had a crush on William, a friend of her brothers, forever, and when he asks her out, she is over the moon.  As their relationship begins to bloom, though, she is overcome with doubts. How can William like her, or find her attractive, when her hands are such an ugly mess.  She can’t see beyond her illness, and she believes that nobody else can, either. When she takes a bad fall from Jinx, William tries to make her understand how important she is to him by asking her to stop riding, at least until her fingers aren’t as painful.  In a panic, Melissa accuses him of trying to ruin her life, and of not understanding how important Jinx’s success is to her.  Ouch! As if she doesn’t have enough on her mind, now she’s heartbroken because her boyfriend doesn’t understand her.

I enjoyed Riding on Air a lot.  The horse scenes were authentic, and got me excited about going to a show myself.  Melissa’s struggles to overcome all of the challenges thrown her way were compelling, and kept me engaged in the story.  While I would have liked this book just because of the horsey stuff, what made it a fulfilling read is the personal growth Melissa undergoes.  She begins to re-examine her relationships, and realizes that maybe she’s not being fair to her friends and family.  While they want to help her, she thinks their concerns are stifling her.  It’s only after she’s able to let go of her fierce need for independence that she is finally able to ride on air. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library